We recently spoke to Pretty Little Liars producer Oliver Goldstick at the Television Critic's Association Winter Press Tour about our fave topic – Who Is "A"? – and, of course, he couldn't reveal too much. But he did give us some more deets about how the big reveal will go down.
Do you know at this point who "A" is?
We do indeed.
How early on did you know? Is it something that has evolved?
There was major discussion in the beginning [during] pre-production whether we were going to pay strict allegiance to the books. And we came up with some different ideas, and there was a consensus by the time we started the first episode (not the pilot, but the first episode, 102) who "A" was. And we all felt good about that decision.
This show bridges several genres, but in the rules of detective stories, you have to introduce all the suspects by a certain point. So can we be assured that by a certain point we know we've already met "A"?
Oh yes. We would never do that. That would be a cheat.
Is "A" someone we’ve met in the first batch of 10 episodes, or the second batch?
I cannot say that. The awkward thing is, when you’re doing a show, you don’t know if it’s going to live beyond 10 episodes. So you do want to be faithful and make sure audiences don’t feel ripped off if the show has to end in a very quick way.
But ABC Family was very adamant to us – this was not a network show. That we were going to have a life. We didn’t have to feel forced to divulge information or expose secrets with great speed. We were able to really leisurely unfold, unravel, bring up people in episodes 7, 8, 9, 10, who may or may not be important. Ian is very important in the book, and doesn’t even appear until episode 10. He’s in the pilot for the flash of a moment and then doesn’t appear again for 9 episodes.
ABC Family has been wonderful about that, saying don’t worry about rushing anything, because we believe in this show.
With the ratings you have, they should believe in the show.
But we didn’t have those in the beginning, and they even said back then, take your time, don’t feel forced. Whereas on network TV you often have to do that, because God forbid you have to end the story with episode 5 and wrap up something very quickly.
Were there suspects and/or clues that you were very conscious you needed to get in by a certain point? Especially in this first season of 20 episodes?
Yes. Certain things had to come out. They were pivotal in the book, too. We looked at the first season very much as the first four books. And there were characters and events that we felt we could not ignore. We had to have that happen by the time we ended 10. So that the provocative video you saw of Allison with Ian would make some sense. Seeing her sister involved with Ian – there were things we just had to get out.
How much does viewer feedback influence you?
It does. This age group is a lot of fun because it’s so immediate. The first time I ever had immediate feedback was when I worked on Ugly Betty. The Internet was just taking over. You'd air an episode, and you’d get your reviews during commercials. I’ve been doing this a long time, and in 20 years, I never had that.
That didn’t happen when you were writing on Coach?
No. 20 years ago, it would take a long time before you got a letter in the mail from prison block 17, if they even got that letter out. And now, it was like people during commercials were telling you what they thought. And with this age group, they don’t hold back. They’ll tell you right away if they don’t like somebody, or if they do.
Anything they didn’t like that you got rid of?
Troian touched on something that was very disheartening in the beginning. I don’t look much at the Internet for this reason. But people who knew the books hated the casting, because Spencer is supposed to be a blonde. It went on and on. We pay attention to this, but how do we protect the actors so they don’t go out on stage feeling like they’re miscast or feeling attacked. So I didn’t pay much attention. And then Marlene started saying, you have to look at some of these. We have some younger writers and they’d come in with things printed out saying, "Everyone loves Lucas." Surprise! Everyone loves Lucas and Hanna. And he’s the school nerd.
How young are your youngest writers?
Maya Goldsmith is my former writer’s assistant for years from Desperate Housewives and we made her a writer on this show. I adore her and she wrote the homecoming episode. Maya is young. One other writer’s assistant, got her first break writing an episode this cycle. She’s in her late 20s. There’s no one in the room who’s 21. But I’m telling you, between the babysitters and the nieces who come to visit the set – we all have 21-year-olds in our lives.
You must be very popular among the nieces.
My sister watches with her daughter. And my sister is a mature woman, who loves the show. ABC Family has tapped into something. This is a different generation. What we would be embarrassed watching with our parents, these kids are not. They actually will watch if there was a scene with a kid getting high, or a lesbian kiss, or an affair with a teacher, or [a student] going back to a teacher’s apartment. The parents are also texting their kids, and the parents are saying to their kids during commercials, "What do you think of that? Would you ever do that? Do you know any kids who are having affairs with teachers, who are looking at teachers like that?"
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Read more of our interview with Oliver here.